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flood

Notable Floods

A flood of the Tiber was recorded in 413 B.C. Records of floods on the Danube date from A.D. 1000. In China some of the world's most disastrous floods have been caused by the unstable Huang He (Yellow River). The river, which flows at or above the level of the bordering land, is contained in part by levees; however, because its channel has gradually become filled with deposited sediment, any appreciable increase in its volume causes the river to overflow and flood the surrounding area. The Netherlands, dependent on its dikes for protection from inundation, has suffered many disastrous floods from the sea and the Rhine and Meuse rivers. In 1970, 1985, and 1991, hundreds of thousands of people in Bangladesh were killed when the combination of high tides and a tropical cyclone (see hurricane) storm surge caused widespread flooding of the low-lying delta of the Ganges and Brahmaputra rivers.

In the United States the Johnstown, Pa., flood of 1889, in which thousands of lives were lost, was caused by the breaking of an earth dam above the city. Even greater loss of life occurred (1900) in Galveston, Tex., when tide and storm surges engulfed the city after a hurricane. The hurricanes of 1938 on the New England and Long Island coasts and Hurricane Donna in 1960 along the Atlantic coast from Florida to the Long Island Sound were also followed by storm surges. In June, 1972, extremely heavy rainfall associated with a tropical storm inundated the basins of the Chemung and Susquehanna rivers of New York and Pennsylvania, causing severely damaging floods in Corning and Elmira, N.Y., and Wilkes-Barre and Harrisburg, Pa. In July, 1979, Hurricane Claudette deposited a U.S. record of 43 in. (109 cm) of rain in Alvin, Tex., in 24 hours. Hurricane Katrina in Aug., 2005, led to extensive and devastating storm-surge flooding along the Louisiana and Mississippi coasts, and the failure of several levees in the New Orleans area resulted in hundreds of deaths. The worst floods in the United States from river overflow were in 1913 on the Miami River (a tributary of the Ohio), in 1927, 1937, 1973, and 2011 on the Mississippi River and some of its tributaries, in 1935–36 on several New England rivers, and in 1993 on the Missouri, Mississippi, and some of their tributaries.

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The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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